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The moment is urgent to protect local journalism

by Peter Weinberger | pweinberger@claremont-courier.com

It’s not often I get to report good news about local publishing, but current legislation may help improve fundamental flaws with compensation for stories published on the internet.
The lead sponsors of the of the bipartisan Journalism Competition and Preservation Act (JCPA) announced progress on a critical bill impacting local news. Organizations like the Claremont COURIER would benefit from the legislation, which would help offset revenue lost when Google and Facebook publish our content without compensation.
The majority of objective news coverage comes from thousands of local operations throughout the country. But we continue to get hammered by Big Tech platforms keeping us from generating the revenue that helps pay for our reporting. The consequences are news deserts (no local news coverage), misinformation, and unchecked government misconduct. The COURIER is looking for a business environment where all players are equal partners. Let’s hope Big Tech will cooperate. —Peter Weinberger

Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota) released this statement on Tuesday, August 23:
Congress just released a revised and expanded version of the bipartisan Journalism Competition and Preservation Act to address dominant online platforms’ power over news organizations. The bill removes legal obstacles to news organizations’ ability to negotiate collectively and secure fair terms from gatekeeper platforms that regularly access news content without paying for its value. The legislation also allows news publishers to demand arbitration if they reach an impasse in those negotiations. The revised bill can be found at klobuchar.senate.gov by searching “SIL22A02.”
“Our bipartisan legislation ensures media outlets will be able to engage in good faith negotiations to receive fair compensation from the Big Tech companies that profit from their news content, allowing journalists to continue their critical work of keeping communities informed,” said Klobuchar, chair of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Competition Policy, Antitrust and Consumer Rights.
“Local papers are the heart and soul of journalism, and they break the news that millions of Americans rely on every day,” said John Kennedy (R-Louisiana), Senate Judiciary Committee member and original sponsor of the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act. “However, tech giants like Facebook and Google are hammering local publications by keeping them from making a profit on Big Tech platforms — and it’s killing local journalism. This bill supports the little guy by allowing local news providers to better negotiate with tech companies for the earnings they deserve.”
“Our democracy is strongest when a free and diverse press can inform citizens and hold power to account,” said David Cicilline (D-Rhode Island), chair of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law. “But today, the free press is in economic freefall — especially local news — thanks to the free-riding of dominant online platforms, who seize news content to enrich their platforms but never pay for the labor and investment required to report the news.

We would never expect a platform to stream movies without paying a film’s creators. But because Google and Facebook simply take news content for free and have monopolized the digital advertising market, newsrooms today are in dire economic peril — with regional and local news publishers downsizing or shuttering at alarming pace. The moment is urgent. At a time when journalism is more important than ever, the press is facing an extinction-level event. Congress must act.”
“The Founders envisioned a free press informing democracy,” said Ken Buck (R-Colorado), Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law. “The Republic needs a media environment that features real information to allow voters to make informed decisions about its affairs.
“Across the country, local newspapers and websites play a critical role in informing the public, ensuring accountability and promoting civic engagement. Unfortunately, they lack the market power to negotiate with the dominant online platforms for ad dollars, leaving newsrooms with fewer resources to do their critical work,” said Dick Durbin (D-Illinois), chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee. “The Journalism Competition and Preservation Act will help solve this problem, allowing local newspapers and broadcasters to band together and level the playing field so we can ensure that local news remains a strong, reliable source of information for years to come.”
“Today, more than half of the country has just one local newspaper or no newspaper at all,” said Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), chair of the House Judiciary Committee. “The consequences are bad for everyone: fewer local news providers translates to unchecked governmental corruption, corporate misconduct and widespread misinformation, plus a raft of other consequences for citizens, taxpayers and our democracy. The free and diverse press needs a level playing field to do its job. This bill simply provides that level playing field, allowing news publishers to fairly negotiate with dominant online platforms. We have worked on a bipartisan and bicameral basis to strengthen and improve the bill over the past year, and I look forward to marking it up when Congress returns in September.”

As revised, the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act would:
• Empower eligible digital journalism providers — that is, news publishers with fewer than 1,500 exclusive full-time employees and non-network news broadcasters that engage in standard newsgathering practices — to form joint negotiation entities to collectively negotiate with a covered platform over the terms and conditions of the covered platform’s access to digital news content.
• Require covered platforms — which are online platforms that have at least 50 million U.S.-based users or subscribers and are owned or controlled by a person that has either net annual sales or market capitalization greater than $550 billion or at least 1 billion worldwide monthly active users — to negotiate in good faith with the eligible news organizations.
• Enable non-broadcaster news publishers to demand final-offer arbitration if their joint negotiation with a covered platform fails to result in an agreement after six months.
• Create a limited safe harbor from federal and state antitrust laws for eligible digital journalism providers that allows them to participate in joint negotiations and arbitration and, as part of those negotiations, to jointly withhold their content from a covered platform.
• Prohibit discrimination by a joint negotiation entity or a covered platform against an eligible digital journalism provider based on its size or the view expressed in its content and provide a private right of action for violations of this prohibition.

 

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